Sunday, 14 December 2008

They seep out of school - to what?

From Money, by Martin Amis:

Now they seep out of school - to what? To nothing, to fuck-all. The young (you can see it in their faces), the stegosaurus-rugged no-hopers, the parrot-crested blankies - they've come up with an appropriate response to this, which is: nothing. Which is nothing, which is fuck-all. The dole-queue starts at the exit to the play-ground. Riots are their rumpus-room, sombre London their jungle-gym. Life is hoarded elsewhere by others. Money is so near you can almost touch it, but it is all on the other side - you can only press your face up against the glass.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

poisonous flames pumping through my veins

Today we started our ride with Mt Coot-tha, which is not very uncommon, although it's been awhile since the last time I did it. The back-door ascension, my least favourite route, but the same as the one that I flew up with 104% of my "predicted" maximum heart rate in the Mt Coot-tha Cycle Challenge earlier this year.

I'm definitely a bit out of shape right now, but there's more to it than this. I've done this ascent so many times, and it has never, ever hurt so much. The lower slopes are usually pretty enjoyable, not too steep and I can keep the cadence up and start to get confident before grinding through the steeper corners and sections.

Today, the oppressive humidity had me red-lining from the start, but despite the term red-lining, my heart rate wouldn't even get over 90%. I slipped off MF's wheel and watched him get further away, I had my glasses fogging up from the humidity and my strained gasping for breath, I had poisonous flames pumping through my veins and chest. It felt like death.

Was it the humidity and heat? Last night's wine? Last night's food? Lack of sleep? Me being in poor form? Or a sad combination of all of these?

Cycling is for masochists.

Women and queers and children / cry when things go wrong

I'm still reading Amis & Son and found a reference to a verse Kingsley Amis wrote, and managed to track it down thanks to Rosie Bell:

Women and queers and children
Cry when things go wrong
Why me? - not him! You're horrid!
Always the same old song.

The usual sort of men
Who hold the world together
Manage to face their front
In any sort of weather.

With rueful grins and curses
They push the world along;
But women and queers and children
Cry when things go wrong.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Love has failed them

A passage from Neil Powell's "Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations", comparing a Kingsley Amis character to a Roy Fuller character:

The two days share similar rhythms and are punctuated by identical consolations. Both men, alone and dejected at the ends of their respective novels, nevertheless possess rich inner cultural and imaginative lives that are unavailable to apparently cleverer, more successful characters; love has failed them, but not the redemptive power of art. It's a state which Kingsley seems to endorse, almost with a touch of envy.

Pretentious soliloquy on a wet Brisbane summer

"oh, rain stops;
yet humidity returns,
like a thick seeping blanket
of moist asphyxiant."

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Kingsley Amis makes a discovery

I'm currently reading Neil Powell's "Amis & Son: Two Literary Generations" and was attracted to this passage, in which I sympathise with Kingsley's confused feelings:

Kingsley, at least, had a difficult lesson to learn that August, when he went on holiday to France with Hilly and their physicist friend Christopher Tosswill as decoy or mock-chaperon. Apart from worrying that they might be 'THROWN OUT of this hotel for IMMORALITY', he was 'starting to think that Miss Hilly and myself have been seeing quite enough of each other, and I want to get my life to myself again'. Things hadn't improved by 7 September: 'Miss Hilly and I have not been getting on quite so well of late: at the moment she wants me to pock her more than I want to pock her, and I am starting to think that Sir tea er tea has more or less the same effect on a young chap as fruss tray shun. There is the same wanting to be by oneself, and the same not wanting to take trouble to be nice, and the same feeling that one has let oneself down, and the same feeling that one has been caught in an unpleasant and ineluctable conspiracy.' Two interconnected discoveries - that he could have too much of the woman he loved and that she in turn might actually make demands on him - seem to have taken Kingsley by surprise. More broadly, they signalled the deep fault-line in his personality: as an only child and as a writer, he was predisposed to solitude and impatient with other people; yet he continually needed company and was terrified when alone, as well as being hopelessly incapable of looking after himself in practical terms.

Incidentally, I'm assuming "Sir tea er tea" is Satiety, as opposed to frustration. I sympathise because I have also felt this way in relationship and found the desire to be alone in conflict with the desire to be with somebody. I can't say I feel this "as an only child and as a writer", perhaps in my case it's "as a shy child with one sibling and as a reader". But the similarity remains, apart from that fact that I am far from terrified when alone.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

and another, from Mrs Dalloway

I've never read a passage that captures my own view of morality co-existing with atheism so well:

As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of these nautical methapors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners (Huxley again); decorate the dungeon with flowers and air-cushions; be as decent as we possibly can.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Current favourite quote

From Virginia Woolfe's Mrs Dalloway:

This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III

Interviewer: Well... Where are you coming from?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: (pause) Well... I don't like the way the country's ran, don't you know, and, erm... that's pretty much what i was expressing in my poem. The government... the American government - they're sneaky, they're very deceitful, they're liars, they're cheats, they're rip-offs. I mean, the American government is one systematic government that...that nobody can trust. I don't trust them myself.

Interviewer: And how long have you been writing for?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Huh?

Interviewer: How long have you been writing for?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Since I was four.

Interviewer: Do you do this sort of thing a lot, like, open-mic kinda questions?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Oh, I love open-mics, I love coming here to do open-mics, absolutely.

Interviewer: What kind of reactions do you usually get?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Usually, people are... are pretty much in agreement with what I'm saying.

Interviewer: We overheard you before talking about... you went to court today for a speeding ticket?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: That's accurate.

Interviewer: right. Do you wanna tell us that story?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Yes, absolutely, I wouldn't mind telling you the story. Erm... I went to court today for a speeding ticket, and I told the judge, erm... "Let me tell you something, and you listen and you listen good, I'm only gonna say this one time and one time only, I don't repeat myself for nobody," I said. I says... "I'm here to pay a speeding ticket, not to listen to your lectures and hear you run your mouth for an hour." I says "I'm here to pay off my speeding ticket ...and I'm here to get my fines out of the way and get the fuck to work." The judge says "You can't talk like that in my courtroom, you're in contempt of court." then I said... I told the judge, "If that's the best you can do, I feel sorry for you." I said "Why don't you just shut your fucking mouth for once and listen." I said "I'm not gonna take any shit." I said "I'm gonna pay my speeding ticket like I said." I walked up to the god damn judge and I hand him my 25 dollars and I says "Here's my money, now I am leaving."
And I left it at that.

(At this point the interview fades whilst the music grows in intensity)

Then, before I left, I turned around and told the judge "I'm here to state who I am and be honest with you." I said "If they thought I was dangerous on the road like you're trying to accuse me of, wouldn't they have taken my license when I first got it? Yes they would." And the judge says "Yeah, you have a point," He goes "You don't need to get loud," I said "Don't get loud?" I says "I've got every right to get loud." I says "You can't do a god damn thing about it, because I'm expressing myself in your court, and there is nothing you can do about it. You think you're god because you have a robe and you can put people up the goddamn river for 20 years? Well you're not."
And I left it at that.

Interviewer: Did you walk away?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Yes I did... I don't like the judicial system, I don't like the government system, I don't like the police, I don't like anything to do with this country's government. I just don't like it, because... they're sneaky, like I said - they're deceitful, they're lying, they're cheats, they rip people off. That's the American government for you. America is a third world country, and people don't recognise it... and I think that that's pretty god damn sad, that they don't recognise their own country as a third world, third rate, third class slum.

Interviewer: Well... Do you have any weapons?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Yes, I do. I own a high-powered assault rifle, I own a 12-gauge double barrel shotgun, I own a regular shotgun, I own a regular hunting rifle, I own a 9mm, a 357, a 45 handgun, a 38 special, and, erm... I own an m-16 fully automatic ground assault rifle...

Interviewer: Do you think things are gonna get better before they get worse?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: No way. Things are just gonna get worse and keep on getting worse. Like I said, America's a third world country as it is and... and we're just basically in a hopeless situation as it stands.

Interviewer: What do you think this country's gonna look like in the year 2003?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Y'know, I'll tell you the truth - nothing against you guys, but I don't wanna answer that question because... I haven't even got a mind that's that...that inhumane.

Interviewer: are you ready for what's coming?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Ready as I'll ever be.

Interviewer: Most people aren't.

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: There's a little saying... Dates back for generations...

Interviewer: Go on...

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Be prepared for anything at any time from anybody, don't take no shit, always stand your ground. People wanna come up to me and run their mouth - guess what? I'll throw them through the fucking window... I won't think a thing of it.

Interviewer: Would you mind reciting your poem for us?

Blaise Bailey Finnegan III: Not at all, I don't see why... I don't see why I couldn't.

There's an evil virus that's threatening mankind
It's not state of the art, it's a serious state of the mind
The muggers, the backstabbers, the two faced elite
A menace to society, a social disease
To brainwash the mind is a social disorder
The cynics, the apathy one-upmanship order
Watching beginnings of social decay
Gloating and sneering at life's disarray
Eating away at your own self esteem
Pouncing on every word that you might be saying
To attack someone's mind is a social disorder
The constitution, the government, martial law order
Superficially smiling a shake of the hand
As soon as your back is turned treason is planned
When every good thing's laid to rest
By the governments hate, by the constitution and their lies
And every time you think you're safe
And when you go to turn away
You know they're sharpening all their knives
All in your mind
All in your head
Try to relate it
All in your mind
All in your head
Try to escape it
Without a conscience they destroy
And that's a thing that they enjoy
They're a sickness that's in all of our minds
They want to sink the ship and leave
The way they laugh at you and me
You know it happens all the time
But it only happens in your mind
The rats in the cellar you know who you are...
Or do you?
Watching beginnings of social decay...

Interviewer: Thank you for your time.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Cocore clips on youtube

  1. just imagine me jumping around the house making "woooooohhh" sounds.
  2. over 8 minutes long, but brilliant, one of their more experimental tracks.
  3. another fave.
  4. catchy pop/rock.
  5. slow but noisy live track, great quality, recorded in the rain.
  6. another live one.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Everyday drinking, by Kingsley Amis

It was alot of fun reading these collected articles by Kingsley Amis on the subject of drinking. Here's two short passages that I enjoyed:

A team of american investigators concluded recently that, without the underpinning provided by alcohol and the relaxation it affords, Western society would have collapsed irretrievably at about the time of the First World War. Not only is drink here to stay; the moral seems to be that when it goes, we go too.

The strains and stressed of urban living, to coin a phrase, are usually held accountable for these increases. I should not dissent from this exactly, but I should single out one stress (or strain) as distinctly more burdensome, and also more widespread than most: sudden confrontation with complete or comparative strangers in circumstances requiring a show of relaxation and amiability - an experience that I, for one, never look forward to without misgiving, even though I nearly always turn out to enjoy it in the event.

The Death of Marco Pantani

Extract from the Epilogue of Matt Rendell's book:

Marco had been dying a long time. The police investigation into his destruction addressed only the final seven weeks of his life. Much was unknown about him, even to insiders. He had kept his different groups of associates - his team-mates and sponsors; his family and manager; his hunting partners; the various groups of nightclub friends in Cesenatico, Rimini and Modena; those who had doped him; those who had drugged him, and those who had procured him women - in separate orbits, and made sure that none saw more of him than he chose to reveal.

you moved in - to my hotel

Thursday, 9 October 2008

cognitive dissonance

look it up. and open your fucking eyes.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

(That's how you sing) Amazing Grace

I knew this girl when I was young
She took her spikes from everyone
One night she swallowed up the lake
That's how you sing amazing grace

Amazing grace
Amazing grace

It sounds like razors in my ears
That bell's been ringing now for years
Someday I'll give it all away
That's how you sing amazing grace

Oh, can you hear that sweet, sweet sound?
Yeah, I was lost but now I'm found
Sometimes there's nothing left to save
That's how you sing amazing grace

Amazing grace
Amazing grace
Amazing grace
That's how you sing amazing grace

Sunday, 31 August 2008

solicitous of his own health

And more:

During the tour Richard had been solicitous of his own health, careful, for instance, to stop drinking every night when he was still a good milliliter clear of liver collapse; he quite often remembered to take his Vitamin C, until it ran out; and of course his smoking had been much reduced, or much rearranged. The confinement and immobility and canned air of modern travel, and the effects of at least three huge and ill-chosen meals a day, he offset with his frequent sprints to the bathroom and with his roilingly aerobic insomnias. But in Los Angeles he definitely started to let himself go. The thing seemed to be that he was making a superhuman effort to avoid thinking about the future, and it was taking a lot out of him.

riveted horror; all other mirrors were in public relations.

More from The Information, by Martin Amis:

He spent his first two hours in New York wearing an expression of riveted horror. This expression of riveted horror was not a response to American violence or vulgarity, to the disposition of American wealth, the quality of American politicians, the condition of American schooling or the standard of American book reviewing (hopelessly variable but often chasteningly high, he would later conclude). No. This expression of riveted horror Richard came to know well. He looked horrified and riveted, and he knew he looked horrified and riveted, because he was staring into the riveted horror of his own face.

In the bathroom, at the hotel. It was a shaving mirror, on a retractable arm, supplementing the broad background of the regular mirror (itself implacable enough). The shaving mirror had a light above it; it also had a light
inside it. He thought there must be a lot of people who imagined they looked okay, who fancied they could pass for normal, until they met a shaving mirror in an American hotel. Then the jig was up. Presumably, with the human face, the worst possible representation will always be the truest. This was the best mirror, and it was the worst mirror. All other mirrors were in public relations. After an audience with such a mirror, only two places to go (and maybe the hotel took its cut): the cosmetic surgery, or the church. Richard tried to tell himself that he had looked terrible in London too. And memorably terrible. A week before departure he found that his passport, disused for some while, had quietly gone out of print, or been remaindered. So he breezed along to Woolworth's in Portobello Road and slipped into the booth, expeditiously, without even pausing to arrange his hair. Three minutes later he was shredding the strip of photographs with his fingernails -- photographs in which he looked, at once, incredibly old, incredibly mad and incredibly ill. He returned to the beauty parlor of Calchalk Street, and then tried again; and he spent another six quid before he came up with anything he could seriously present at Petty France . . . The mirror had the power to hold him in position, like a vise. His face, it was nothing. It was scorched earth.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

so wat's happened in august?

  1. First day working on client site, at buttfuck island
  2. Breeders' gig at The Zoo
  3. Three BIFF films, including Ashes of Time!
  4. Olympic road race (sorry that's the only bit I really care about)
  5. British India gig at the Tivoli
  6. Stereo Total gig at Picasso Up Late
  7. Work project "ceased until further notice"


Saturday, 23 August 2008

concept for a book, no. 1

Death drives a black BMW SUV.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Martin Amis digresses, in The Information

It might help if we knew where we lived. Each of us, after all, has the same address. Every child has memorized it. It goes something like.

This or That Number,
This or That Street,
This or That Conurbation,
This or That County,
This or That Country,
This or That Continent,
This or That Hemisphere,
The Earth,
The Superior Planets,
The Solar System,
Nr. Alpha Centauri,
The Orion Spur,
The Milky Way,
The Local Group,
The Local Cluster,
The Local Supercluster,
The Universe,
This Universe. The One Containing:
The Local Supercluster,
The Local Cluster,
And So On. All the Way Back To:
This or That Street,
And This or That Number.

It might help if we knew where we were going, and how fast.

The Earth revolves at half a kilometer per second.

The Earth orbits the Sun at thirty kilometers per second.

The Sun orbits the center of the Milky Way at 300 kilometers per second.

The Milky Way is traveling in the general direction of Virgo at 300 kilometers per second.

Astronomically, everything is always getting further away from everything else.

It might help if we knew what we were made of, how we keep going and what we will return to.

Everything before your eyes -- the paper and the ink, these words, and your eyes themselves -- was made in stars: in stars that explode when they die.

More proximately we are warmed and hatched and raised by a steady-state H-bomb, our yellow dwarf: a second-generation star on the main sequence.

When we die, our bodies will eventually go back where they came from: to a dying star, our own, five billion years from now, some time around the year 5,000,001,995.

It might help if we knew all this. It might help if we felt all this.

Absolutely unquestionably, the universe is high style.

And what are we?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Green Man, by Kingsley Amis

The Green Man has not been my favourite Kingsley Amis novel, not by any means. It's a slim volume but I found it tough to get through, for various reasons. Maybe it's nothing to do with the book itself, and merely because I've started a new job and have less time on my hands, but I don't think that's the entirety of it.

Something in the books last words opened my eyes towards one of the "positives" of dying. It may well be the only way of escape. Being an atheist, I tend to have a fear of death, but here's a good point-

I found I had begun to understand the meaning of the young man's prophecy that I would come to appreciate death and what it had to offer. Death was my only means of getting away for good from this body and all its pseudo-symptoms of disease and fear, from the constant awareness of this body, from this person, with his ruthlessness and sentimentality and ineffective, insincere, impracticable notions of behaving better, from attending to my own thoughts and from counting in thousands to smother them and from my face in the glass. He had said I would never be free of him as long as the world lasted, and I believed him, but when I died I would be free of Maurice Allington for longer than that.

I put on my dinner jacket, swallowed a strong whisky and went downstairs to being the evening round.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

more from sputnik sweetheart

"So that's how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that's stolen from us -- that's snatched right out of ours hands -- even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our allotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness."

Sunday, 15 June 2008

sputnik sweetheart

"And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they're nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we'd be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing."

Monday, 2 June 2008

Father and Son: you can't do both; night train.

The rain has taken over and I've let it. In the past week I've finished You Can't Do Both by Kingsley Amis, and Night Train by Martin Amis. Very different novels, indeed, by Father and Son.

In You Can't Do Both we are taken into various stages of the first half of life for Robin Davies: firstly as a fourteen-year old adolescent being controlled by his over-bearing Father, chasing his second cousin while on holiday and being cracked onto by the older homosexual Jeremy; secondly as an Oxford undergraduate enjoying his first sexual encounters and meeting Nancy, who is "not the right sort of girl to persuade to follow his confounded intentions"; thirdly returning on leave from the war to find that Jeremy has been jailed for his conscientious objection and near-jailed for misbehaving with an Australian solider, getting Nancy pregnant, trying for an (illegal) abortion, changing their minds and getting married in a registry office; then fourthly, at age 35, cheating an Oxford academic, cheating on Nancy when he can get away, but finally caught and told that You Can't Do Both.

Now I've pretty much said it all there, in terms of plot, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Apparently it's "strongly" autobiographical which may explain the insightful "real"-ness that carries through. However nothing can explain the brilliant, humorous prose except that it's by Kingsley Amis.

And then, the Night Train. Well haven't I just read some scathing reviews, although I can't say I agree with them. This is a very short novel at 149 pages. It is a mystery narrated by the American female detective "Mike" Hoolihan, concerning herself with the why of her superior's daughter's suicide. The novel is dark but that doesn't budge me in this case, having read much longer and darker Amis such as Money and London Fields. To me it is more philosophical, dealing with life, with death, with homicide, with suicide. And the fact that sometimes, in life as in astrophysics (or religion?), we must accept that we have no answers. Well that's just my interpretation. But perhaps the important sentence is on the third-last page, before Hoolihan calls her superior to deliver a fake verdict, full of all of the lies, the decoys:

"Sir, your daughter didn't have motives. She just had standards. High ones. Which we didn't meet."

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Martin Amis and The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom

Yes - it's a bit strange for me to be reading non-fiction, although there are actually a couple of short stories thrown into this collection of Amis' writings in response to September 11 and Islamist terrorism in general. But I can't resist Amis in any form and am finding his arguments interesting.

There have been many sections that I wanted to share on the blog, but I've settled for now on this piece that I found humourous. Amis has described how the Islamic Republic of Iran had after 1979 halved the age requirement for a girl to be married, from eighteen years old to nine, and is describing a scene in which his young nine-year old daughter is being searched before a flight to New York:

"One way of ending the war on terror would be to capitulate and convert. The transitional period would be a humorless one, no doubt, with stern work to be completed in the city squares, the town centers, and on the village greens.
Nevertheless, as the Caliphate is restored in Baghdad, to much joy, the surviving neophytes would soon get used to the voluminous penal code enforced by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice. It would be a world of perfect terror and perfect boredom, and of nothing else - a world with no games, no arts, and no women, a world where the sole entertainment is the public execution. My middle daughter, now aged nine, still believes in imaginary beings (in her case Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy); so she would have that in common, at least, with her new husband."

Assuming, of course, that you can find humour in such things.

no country for old men: the novel.

Earlier this year I saw No Country For Old Men at the cinema, and like most people I thought it was a great piece of cinema. Having read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I decided it would be worthwhile to read No Country For Old Men. It wasn't, really.

It's generally a given that if you've read a book, any film adaptation will be disappointing. The only immediate example I have where this isn't true would be Lord of the Rings, which was finally done in the grand scale that did justice to the books, particularly if you watch the extended editions. However it's more of an unknown quantity when you watch the film adaptation first and then proceed to the written word.

At the very least, you would generally expect a deeper insight into the characters and their motivations. No Country For Old Men does have this to some extent, with Bell's lengthier narrations. But that doesn't amount to much, and is actually dealt with quite well in the Coen brothers' film. As for more plot? Well no, this is a film that was really very true to the original story.

I am glad to have read the book, but I think this is a rare case where the film adaptation has surpassed the reading experience.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Low - (That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace

(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace

I knew this girl when I was young
She took her spikes from everyone
One night she swallowed up the lake
That's how you sing amazing grace
Amazing grace
Amazing grace
It sounds like razors in my ears
That bell's been ringing now for years
Someday I'll give it all away
That's how you sing amazing grace
Oh, can you hear that sweet sweet sound
Yeah, I was lost but now I'm found
Sometimes there's nothing left to save
That's how you sing amazing grace
Amazing grace
That's how you sing amazing grace

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Quotes from Murphy's Law

I've always been a big fan of British TV - Doctor Who since back in the Tom Baker era, The Bill, As Time Goes By, Spooks, Black Books, Torchwood, Blackpool, Little Britain, the BBC production of Dickens' Bleak House (which I had also read previously) - and I'm sure there's more.

Last year I was addicted to this undercover cop show called Murphy's Law which was running on the ABC, and I now have the first 3 series on DVD. I guess it's the usual gritty sort of cop show - quite stark, shocking at times, and with lots of black humour. I've always been a sucker for this kind of stuff. I also really dig the soundtrack. Here are three of the quotes that I've gathered:

"Your money or your life!"
"I have no money; and I have no life"

"You're cynical"
"Alive and cynical as opposed to dead and gullible?"

"A bird in the hand, Murphy--"
"Leaves shite in your palm!"

Friday, 25 April 2008

small flowers crack concrete

Small flowers crack concrete
Narcotic squads sweep thru poet dens
Spilling coffee grabbing 15 yr old runaway girls
By frazzled ponytailed hair + tossing them
Into backseats of cop cars
The narcs beat the bearded oracles
Replacing tantric love with
Complete violence

Lights + mirrors dot the city
Inkstained hippies w/ boxed lunch + marijuana
Mystery plays of shit and nothingness
Blessed by colors from a black hat

Blue lights search thru weeds
Searching for the heart of d.a. levy
And the mind he left behind

What didjoo expect? another mystic wreck?
Thats whatchoo got crawling inside yr panic net
Whatdidjoo bring me? not a goddam thing yeh
+ whatdidjoo leave me? another tombstone dream yeh
O salacious mansion, the boys held for ransom
Didja see where he1s gone? the blasted summers dawn
Fucked up in cleveland fucked up in cleveland
Short flight to nothing heavens up to something heavens up to something
Levys up to something levys up to something

Death poems for the living gods of america
Plastic saxophones bleat, bleed for nothing, nada
Cops crashing thru doors infuriated by silver charms
Of suburban smoke
At war with patches of red dirt glitter
And bluejean fucking + protest

by Sonic Youth.

Monday, 21 April 2008

when a book can break yr heart - To Live, by Yu Hua

I've been reading To Live by Chinese novelist Yu Hua on my Cybook. I read Chronicle of a Blood Merchant in 2003 after buying a copy in San Francisco and enjoyed it, although I often wonder how well these books translate. I wonder the same thing when reading Murakami, or anything translated from another language, but perhaps even more so with Chinese.

This evening I've been reduced to tears, although I have to admit I've often been accused of crying too easily. But putting that aside, this is a very sad and touching story - a simple story of simple, flawed and very real people. It is written (or at least translated) with such bare bones simplicity and honesty, that it cuts you to the core and reminds you what is really important.

An interesting interview with Yu Hua can be found here, in which he explains his change from a more avant-garde writing style to the plain style of To Live and Chronicles of a Blood Merchant. He also states that the central theme of his writing is how strong the Chinese character remains in the face of adversity. His motive is not to criticise or condemn the past, or to make overtly political statements. I'm only two-thirds of the way through the book, but can definitely say that it's worth checking out.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Bookeen Cybook and House of Meetings - Martin Amis

I'm reading the very first eBook on my new Booken Cybook reader. It's awesome! There's lots of reviews of the device out there on the net if you're interested, and I bought mine via the Naeb buyer's club, which allowed me to access the much cheaper USD price (as opposed to Euro).

The reason I'm posting is to share this passage:

Oral "relief," lasting half a minute, was the sex act of choice and necessity. And I offer this final observation (very vulgar, but not entirely gratuitous) in a pedagogic spirit, because it shows that even in their most intimate dealings the women, too, were worked on by socioeconomic reality. In the postwar years, there were no non-swallowers in the Soviet Union. None.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Bar Alto and Ajisen Ramen in Brisbane

Last night I had a celebration with my friend at Bar Alto at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Italian wine, quail entree, duck breast and a cheese platter! Yum yum yum. My friend had scallops and veal sweetbreads for entree, followed by Kingfish, which was probably the best choice of the night.

Then today I finally got to have lunch at Ajisen Ramen, which I've wanted to try all week. The location on George Street is not the best, so I think not many people in Brisbane have discovered it yet. Today was pretty quiet, although I imagine a weekday lunchtime might be a different story.

I had Takoyaki, one of my favourite things, as an entree. I've had better, but it's always nice to find another place in Brisbane for these tasty octopus balls. Then for my main I had the tender pork ribs ramen, which was lovely.

I'm feeling very full and fat now, and heading to the Front End Loader concert tonight.


PS: I didn't take any photos, so let me steal somebody else's....

Friday, 11 April 2008

NOFX - The Irrationality of Rationality

Frank, the new CEO, had to answer to the board.
The board was getting anxious, and the shareholders were
On a bed, legs in air, ass-cheeks open wide
They were about to get fucked like it was their first time.
When one makes 20 million, ten thousand people lose.
What keeps that one from swallowing a shotgun?

Dan, the company man, felt loyalty to the core.
After 16 years of service, and a family to support
He actually started to believe the weaponry and chemicals were for national defense.
'Cause danny had a mortgage, and a boss to answer to.
The guilty dont feel guilty, they learn not to.

Helen is living in her car, trying to feed her kids.
She got laid off at work, and her house was repossessed.
Its hard to think clearly when its 38 degrees.
Desperate people have been known to render desperate deeds.
But when she shot that family and moved into their home,
The paper read she suffered from dementia.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Front End Loader - Laughing With Knives

To me, Front End Loader were one of the best Australian bands in the 90s. This was a glory period in Australia rock- Front End Loader, Tumbleweed, early Regurgitator, early Spiderbait, Mark of Cain, and so many more. I will always always remember seeing FEL live at Livid in 1995, the first time I ever came across them. This was around the time that Let's Ride! was released, with the classic track Travelscrabbledeath which was included on JJJ's "Eleven" compilation (along with the Dreamkillers' classic Sarah (STD STD STD!)).


I sorta lost track of them after about 1997 when Last of the V8 Interceptors was released, until a couple of years ago when my friend's partner lent me the Ape Got Fire mini-album. Man, that album kept me company on the bus to work for a full 3 month period, it was the perfect length and I fucking loved it (and yes Bindleys, it was the 470 bus - I fucking love the 470!).

Yesterday I picked up Laughing With Knives, the 2xCD release with a live album recorded at the Annandale Hotel and a disc of B-Sides and rarities. Awesome! It's making me really want to go to see them at the Step Inn on Saturday night, it might be the last chance to see them live. But, I'm not sure I will.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Martin Amis, London Fields - Traffic

Now -- the streets, the traffic. We know that traffic reflects the temperaments of the great capitals (and here in a farewell flourish I invoke my world citizenship): the unsmiling triumphalism of Paris, the fury and despair of old New York, the cat-and-mouse audacity of Rome, the ragged murder of Cairo, the showboat longevity of Los Angeles, the industrial durance of Bombay or Delhi, where, four times a day, the cars lash the city in immovable chains. But here, in London -- I just don't get it.
They adore doubleparking. They do. This is true love -- a love whose month is ever May. They park in the middle of the goddamned street. I turned into the All Saints Road -- and it wasn't a road any longer. It was a lot, a doubleparking lot. The traffic lights are barely more than decoration, like Christmas lights. You hit a red at the crossroads but you inch forward anyway, in the lock, into the headlock. You may even decide the time is ripe to get out and run an errand. Why? Why not? Everybody else does it. It seems clear to me, after five seconds' thought,t hat if everybody does it then nobody gets around, nobody gets anywhere. But everybody does it because everybody does it. And here's the other thing: hardly anyone seems to mind. At the crossroads the drunken youth drops out of his van and waddles into GoodFicks or Potato Love or the Butchers Arms, and the cars don't mind. They just nudge and shove each other, the old heaps, and not angrily, in this intimacy of metal and rust and not getting anywhere.
That was more or less how it was ten years ago. That was more or less how it was ten days ago. Now, in the last little packet of time, it's all changed. We have moved from purgatory to full inferno. And suddenly everybody minds. Even the gentler sex. And if plump mums scream over the grizzle of their strapped kids, if old ladies in old Morrises parturate with venom and smack freckled fists on the horn, then how are the men taking it? Four times in the last few days I have sat tight in the car, gridlocked under the low sun, with no way out, while jagged figures discover what the hard machine can do to the soft: what the hood of the car can do to the human nose and mouth, what the tyre-iron can do to the back of the human head. Traffic is a contest of human desire, a waiting game of human desire. You want to go there. I want to go here. And, just recently, something has gone wrong with traffic. Something has gone wrong with human desire.
I don't get it. No -- I do! Suddenly I do, though there's no real reason (is there?) why anybody else should. In traffic, now, we are using up each other's time, each other's lives. We are using up each other's lives.

Friday, 4 April 2008

can you hear the helicopters?

If only I hadn't lost my best friend, she'd remember my previous obsession with a Smog lyric from the song Sleepy Joe, on the Wild Love album - "can you hear the bells?". I used to listen to that CD over and over, and the final track Prince Alone In The Studio with it's counting down of the hours used to wake me up at 2am, 3am, 4am.

Right now the shuffle gods inside my iPod have chosen PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and Thom Yorke's vocals have triggered something in me. Can you hear the helicopters?

Occasionally in the past few months, I've been woken up at about 4.30am, not long before my usual alarm. Woken by the helicopters. I think it might be the traffic report helicopters from Mt Coot-tha getting ready to go out and do their thing. And it doesn't bother me at all, because waking up before my alarm always leaves me feeling better. That's not the point.

The point is, that waking up to this sound fills me with a sense of apocalyptic dread. What is it about the sound of helicopters in the bleak pre-dawn light?

The News

I couldn't sleep last night. O, precious sleep, my only mortal escape, why do you elude me so?

So anyway, apart from devouring a whole box of BBQ Shapes left in my cupboard by Mister T, I read the news to pass some time, and was intrigued by this latest sign of post-modern desperation: re-possessed homes in the US are being burgled and stripped of their copper pipes, due to soaring world copper prices. What can I say?

Meanwhile, locally, it's being predicted that rents in Australian cities will rise by 50% in the next four years. The "advice" for renters is to try and lock in their current lease for as long as they can. You'd have to be very lucky, I could never get a landlord to agree to a lease greater than 6 months -- they enjoyed their 6-monthly rent-hikes too much. And that was a few years ago.

Now it's Friday morning and I'm facing 8 more hours of trying to make something of this non-project, before the weekend: emotional eating, emotional drinking, and the Mt Coot-tha Cycle Challenge.

yeah, cheers!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

London Fields

The New York Times asks: "is the world in for a rosier future, or are we just kidding ourselves?". It says that "Martin Amis, unregenerate, is determined to send us plummeting into darkness. With evangelical ardor, he sets his sixth novel, 'London Fields', in the grimmest of times."

Well, I'm not kidding myself. I'm in the middle of reading London Fields, and sure, I have some sense of the dread, of the impending doom. I can see the characters and the plot spinning towards their dark climax. Two of the characters can also see it coming, in some sense. But as I read Amis' description of societal decay, I see more of an accurate reflection than a prediction. Perhaps in 1989 it was a prediction -- but now?

Am I being unfair, overly cynical? People accuse me of it frequently, and insist that I think positively. These are peaceful and prosperous times. Sure, maybe so, but at what cost? And isn't it possible that they are the deluded ones? Holding false hope to keep themselves going, or even worse -- they just *don't care* about anything outside of their own hedonistic lives? Well at some point they may well be forced to care, and to think about more than having fun in a world of trash tabloids, throwaway TV and modern consumerism.

Equally possible is that I'm deluded, and that this attitude is a reflection of my own state of mind. I'll admit to that - I'll cop it on the chin. It's true that I'm in quite a state. I'm in retreat, more so than ever. After 28 years, things just stack up, and I don't really understand how anybody can stay sane. Not without a great deal of denial. Maybe I've just read too much Martin Amis.

But I digress. The state of society, the "world situation", are just a backdrop in this book - they set the scene. The impact is more upon the mood of the story (and the reader) than the characters or the plot. I might write more about the story of London Fields later, or perhaps not, there's heaps of reviews already out there. And my motivation has rather sharp limits, these days.

I found somebody who agrees with me to some extent, at least. In his 2002 review, Jason Picone said that "First published in 1989, London Fields has aged extremely well; it's so relevant to current events that it's a bit disquieting.". Well I'm in 2008 finding it more than a bit disquieting.

More from Picone:
"The other thread of the novel is the crisis, or as Amis writes it, the Crisis, which is more or less the apocalypse, always lurking in the novel's margins. The most prevalent manifestation of the Crisis is the threat of nuclear warfare, though pollution and unchecked capitalism are also in the Amis world destruction derby. The numbered days of the Earth are counted down concurrently with those of Nicola Six, a seemingly odd comparison that ultimately resonates with meaning. Amis charges that both Nicola Six and the Earth's inhabitants are complicit in their own deaths, welcoming doom simply because they believe it is the most likely outcome.

Read in the light of current events, the book is a warning against hopelessness and pessimism. Amis's murderers' triangle is an example of three individuals who take life too lightly, limiting themselves to narrow, unhappy lives because an omnipresent Crisis has hammered them into a despair they aren't fully aware of."

A warning against hopelessness and pessimism? I don't quite see that. I feel hopeless and pessimistic because not many in today's world would heed this book's warning against a blinkered existence (ie: ignorance) and hedonism. But perhaps I'm an individual who takes life too seriously - a self-destructive trait for one who believes in nothing.


Monday, 31 March 2008

Real Emotional Trash - Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

Is there anybody (with good taste) out there who hasn't yet stumbled across the Album of the Year thus far? Well consider yourself informed - Real Emotional Trash is it. I haven't really followed Malkmus' post-Pavement career, and although I liked Pavement I also never got really into them as a band. But I'm seriously in love with Real Emotional Trash. Thankfully, it's about alot more than Malkmus' unique and infectious vocals and lyrics - this is an epic and legendary album, and one that rewards repeated listening. Indeed, like many of my favourite all-time albums, I wasn't overly impressed on the first spin - I had an inkling of it, but it wasn't until a few end-to-end sessions that I really felt it properly.

It's getting rarer and rarer these days to here albums that stand alone as a unit, and that need to be treated as a whole rather than a series of "hits" and "B-sides". This is a return to the album as an art-form.

I've never been very good at describing music, which makes me very bad at reviews and even worse at pigeon-holing into genres. The Rolling Stone's review seems to be more than a little over the top, but here's some of the description used there, to give you an idea:
  • a fantastic psychedelic feast, full of cosmic guitar crackle and electric piano and batshit poetry
  • a full-body baptism in John Cipollina's bong water
  • "Elmo Delmo" fuses the Grateful Dead's "Cryptical Envelopment" with Sonic Youth's "Karen Koltrane."
I'm not sure if I agree with all that, but I can say for sure that this album is definitely worth checking out.


Tuesday, 25 March 2008

of course i don't believe in horoscopes! however...


As a Scorpio, you may have been told quite a few times not to get so emotional. This week, however, it is time to be sensitive -- in a good way. Nurture your emotional needs and you won't go wrong.

JESUS CHRIST! Well I think it's very appropriate, although it might be a bit hard to drop my current harder exterior this week in order to be more sensitive. And what does in a good way mean? Hmmm! Oh well, I suppose like most things in life, it's about balance.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Living Alone

A very short passage from my current read, London Fields, by Martin Amis:

"Living alone, you know," she said today, "it's all right -- it's good.". Queenly Incarnacion lives alone. Her husband is dead. Her two children are grown up. They live in Canada. She came here. They went there. "You have advantages. When you living alone, you do things when you want. Not when they want. When you want."
"True, Incarnacion."
"You want a bath. You have a bath. You want to eat. You eat. You don't need them to say so. It suit you. You sleepy, you want to go to bed. You go to bed. Don't ask. You want watch the TV. Okay! You watch the TV. Up to you. You want a cup of coffee. -- Coffee. You want clean the kitchen. You clean the kitchen. You want maybe listen to the radio. You listen the radio."
Yes, and the same goes for any solitary activity you care to name. But after twenty minutes on the upside of living alone, we get twenty minutes on the downside of living alone, like there never being anyone else around and things like that.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

With Grace - DJ Krush (featuring n'dea davenport)

This has always been my favourite track from DJ Krush's "Zen" album:

Is there any reason
Why my heart must now understand?
We had the fire so many times
Changes like the season
Convinces me
That we've come to an end
But your love was undescribable

Woo ooh, woo ooh, woo ooh, woo ooh
Woo ooh, woo ooh, woo ooh, woo ooh

And as I watch I see before my eyes
The truth is my reality
My emotions are high
And I'm at the risk of falling again
Right now everything's on the line

Being alone is not what I prefer
But I've got to face this feeling
With grace
I will step aside
But if you're in need,
Holler and I'll be round
Holler, holler, holler
Holler, holler, holler

Please don't try
To make me less than I am
Let's not drag it out anymore
With grace
I'll politely remove myself
With grace
I'm all too willing
'Cause being alone is not what I prefer
But I've got to face this feeling
With grace
I will step aside
But if you're in need
Holler and I'll be round
With grace
I will step aside
But if you're in need
Holler and I'll be round
Holler, holler, holler
Holler, holler, holler
With grace
I will step aside
But if you're in need
Holler and I'll be round
But if you're in need
Holler and I'll be round
But if you're in need
Holler and I'll be round

a dreary start to the day

colleague: you have a holiday tomorrow, yes?
me: yes.
colleague: what is your plan?
me: i have no plan.
colleague: oh. *nervous laugh*
me: *puts headphones back on*

Saturday, 15 March 2008

another gem (after a night on the Pastis)

For years I had believed that these lines:

'Shot? So quick, so clean an ending?
Oh that was right, lad, that was brave;
Yours was not an ill for mending,
'Twas best to take it to the grave'

were about a horrified young Edwardian who had discovered that he was a homosexual. I am in a position to correct literary history in this matter. The lines are about a horrified chap in early middle age who has discovered, one morning, that he has no head for Pastis. This, you see, was not the common hangover of commerce, it was a Plague of Egypt with a top-dressing of the Black Death. Quite clearly incurable. I touched the bell.
'Jock,' I said hollowly, 'pray bring me a pot of tea -- the Lapsang Souchong Tips I think -- and a loaded revolver. Mine is not an ill for mending: I propose to take it to the grave but I wish to blow the top of my head off first. I have no intention of spending eternity with the top of my head in its present condition.'
He started to steal away.
'Oh, and Jock,' I added, 'when you bring the tea-tray I implore you not to let the spoon or other cutlery rattle against the revolver.'

Yes, more brilliance from The Mortdecai Trilogy. I've spent this evening cackling my head off on the couch with a bottle of wine, thankful that it is not Pastis (which is just absinthe without the wormwood, you know).

A rather interesting, tasteless and downright lovely passage from the Mortdecai Trilogy

The old lady continued to stare fixedly at the tasteful sepia view of Tewkesbury Abbey, above my head, perhaps willing it to fall on me. I must say I rather liked the cut of her jib, while her clear distaste for the Mortdecais of this world did her credit. I have often thought of acquiring an old lady to keep as a pet. They'd be of little use for a shooting man, of course -- no nose, d'you see, and useless over marshy ground -- but for the town-dweller they are incomparable. I cannot understand why people pay fortunes for nasty cats and dogs who leave puddles and puppies and kittens all over the place when, for nothing but the cost of her keep, one can have an old lady, clean as a new pin and warranted past child-bearing. Old ladies can help one, too, in countless little ways such as marking shirts and arranging flowers: tricks which few dogs and no cats can be taught. True, they can be noisy, but I imagine that a few cuts of the whip would break them of this -- or I dare say they could be surgically muted for a trifling sum. True, too, they are a wasting asset and, if you had the bad luck to pick a poor doer, she might become bed-ridden and linger on for years; a misery to herself and a burden to others. I suppose the thing to do would be to leave, pointedly, a bottle of brandy and a loaded revolver on her commode, as one used to do with a Guards Officer who'd been caught with his fingers in the tambourine.
People shouldn't keep people if they're not prepared to look after them, don't you agree?

Friday, 14 March 2008

Smog - Natural Decline

Reproduced without permission, as always.

The mind is always working

The mind is always turning
The mind is always working
The mind is always turning
Things over and over and over
And over and over

The upside the downside
The inside the outside
The sightside the blindside
The wifeside the fightside
There is no rest for your brother

Pulleys are clinking
Ropes are fraying
Down to thread
Maybe was made wrong
Rubbing on the wrong thing
Or is it just the natural decline
Of a body sister

The mind is always working
Out ways to see
The things I shouldn't see
And have the things I shouldn't have
I see the night sky as a jewelry store window
And my mind is half a brick

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Faces - Cat Power (I'm not made of successful things)

Looking out across the next few days
I can see, nothing
Looking out across the next few years
I can see, they're gonna go by fast
Looking out across the next few days
Smoke's gonna clear slowly
Looking out across the next few days
I can see, they're gonna go by fast
They're gonna go by
Lying for, me
So I won't hear a thing
To bat me back
So I'll notice some grave thing
I'm not made of successful things
I'm not made of successful things
I'm not made of success
I've got what it takes
I've got what it takes
To rest
To rest
To rest
But I'm still around
Looking across the faces I've known
I can see
Looking out across my family members
I know they miss me
I know they must miss me
Never had a lot of fun
Better things to do around the house
Than have a lot of fun
Better things to do without
Lying for, me
So I won't hear a thing
To bat me back
So I'll notice some grave thing
I'm not made of successful things

Don't believe them.

Seriously, just don't.

If somebody tells you they've made up their mind to do something? Don't believe them.
If they say it's okay to plan towards something? Don't believe them.

Don't start planning, no matter what they say, because you'll waste energy, money and emotions.
Don't let them in, don't ever lose sight of The Guiding Principle.

And whatever you do .. don't ever have hopes or dreams. Just don't.

Oh. And when your friends say "I told you so"? Just say nothing, because you know they are right, and you know you should have listened.

I feel just like - some great big disease [cat power - ice water]

Monday, 25 February 2008

Rubis drink of the moment

1 Oz Rubis
1 half passionfruit flesh and seeds
1 dash lime or lemon juice
1 slice lime or lemon


Saturday, 23 February 2008

Sonic Youth and Melbourne notes

I had a great trip to Melbourne, probably the best one ever, despite going there about 4 times last year and once a few years before that. It started pretty badly- I think that seeing a movie (Jumper, ugghh!) and doing lunch with my ex was not the best way to start things off. But I checked into the hotel and caught up with Calculon, who was the bestest host ever, as well as being such a cool, nice, funny, smart and independent young dude! We went for a drive to Chapel St and St Kilda, had a nice simple thai dinner in the city and walked around Southbank before being damn-near burnt to a crisp by the fire displays (which seemed much more appropriate when I was there in Winter, I think!).

Needless to say, I skipped Damo Suzuki, which I think was a good decision. The next day we planned a driving trip to Hanging Rock, but cut it short at Mt Macedon due to really horrendous weather. It was still nice though, since I had never been far outside the Melbourne CBD and suburbs. We ended up going to see Sweeney Todd and then I went back to the hotel to rest before the main event - Sonic Youth performing Daydream Nation in its entirety!

Okay the gig was fucking awesome. I secured a great spot at front centre, slightly elevated due to some stairs. The Scientsts were not bad, but not having been a fan previously, I was a bit impatient for it to finish. Sonic Youth came on and said barely a word before launching into Teenage Riot. They ripped through the 70+ minutes of Daydream Nation as if it was 1988 again. No words that I come up with can really describe how this felt for me. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I savoured every second. Lee and Thurston played off each other's guitars perfectly as always - "the assault of holy noise" - with Kim's bass and Steve's drums always there to round things off. Something I noticed is how much their live sound and singing has improved compared to live tracks I've heard from the Daydream era, particularly Thurston and Kim. They paid great attention to detail in reproducing this classic album in live form, even throwing in a remixed noisier version of Providence with Mike Watt's phone message looping away in the background.

After such a treat, I actually expected no encore. I didn't really think it fitted in very well with the "Don't Look Back" format. But thankfully I was wrong. I think this may be partly due to Sonic Youth's reluctance to dwell in the past and their keenness to always be creating new music. To much applause, Sonic Youth came back out and performed a number of tracks from their latest album Rather Ripped, as well as an awesome version of The World Looks Red (!!) from their first full-length album, Confusion Is Sex. What a fucking treat. When I last saw them in Brisbane they amazed me and blew my mind by playing Brother James and Making the Nature Scene, and seeing The World Looks Red live really topped things off.

And then, yes, a very quick second encore - Drunk Butterfly from Dirty. I was really tired of standing by that point, but the energy of this song just made me want more and more. I always was a greedy pig. But I knew that was it, and everybody headed outside in a buzz.

I went back super-tired but was (thankfully) convinced to go out for a late night supper at China Bar - my favourite Sin Juk Guen and Siu Mai and a Char Siu omelette on rice. Woohoo!

The next day I had to check out, but my host with the most was kind enough to spend the day with me, hanging around the city and I finally got to see Juno (w00t!) and with so many Sonic Youth references, I suppose that is all too appropriate. Unfortunately, I had to head home that evening .. and it was all over.

And now I'm back in 41 degree heat with a hideous cold, wondering if I can rent my unit out and head to Melbourne for an extended working jaunt. It will probably never happen, but it's so damn attractive right now! I don't wanna go back to work on Monday... and I miss Calculon dearly.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Heading to Melbourne

Extremely early tomorrow morning I'll be flying to Melbourne for a quick 3-day jaunt. My prime objective is to catch Sonic Youth's performance of the classic Daydream Nation as part of the Don't Look Back concert series. What a once in a lifetime chance that is for me!

I'll also be catching Damo Suzuki playing at The Toff in Town with Blank Realm which should be interesting.

Because of last year's long distance relationship, I'm not entirely keen on heading back to Melbourne, but I'll try keep a clear head, focus on new things and enjoy the gigs.

with me luck,

PJ Harvey at QPAC Concert Hall

Well last night I was lucky enough to go with Bindleys to see PJ Harvey play an intimate solo show at QPAC Concert Hall. The support act was a slightly grumpy (I can sympathise), but amusing and very talented Mick Harvey singing and on acoustic guitar, accompanied by an awesome double bass.

PJ Harvey certainly didn't fail to impress. This concert came at a hefty price tag and with much hype, but didn't fail to deliver. The set list was as follows:

To Bring You My Love
Send His Love To Me
When Under Ether
The Devil
White Chalk
Man Size
Angelene (with Mick Harvey)
My Beautiful Leah
Nina in Ecstasy
Electric Light
Big Exit
Down By The Water
Grow Grow Grow

Rid of Me (audience request)

The Mountain

Encore with Mick Harvey on Piano

Horses in My Dreams
The Garden
C'Mon Billy
The Piano
The Desperate Kingdom of Love

This was quite a collection of the old and new. Obviously the quieter new album is more suited to this style of intimate solo gig, so I was expecting a very low key, quiet and haunting performance. However, PJ rocked out on many occasions and played many old favourites in the embryonic "raw" mode in which she first composed them (backed by drum machines and her on guitar). She also constantly changed between various guitars, piano, mandolin and harmonica, finishing most songs with a gracious "thank you", but also with occasional banter with the crowd.

She proves in this solo mode just how powerful and amazing an instrument her voice is. This can get lost when she plays with her band, but was there for all of us to marvel at in this performance.

good stuff,

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Troubled times; Jake's Thing; Pistache

Well, it's been troubled times here in the Palace of the Dolphin Throne. An entirely avoidable plumbing disaster that has soiled my record collection, ruined my wall and shorted out the power to the whole building is just one part of it. Do I have to mention the friendship in tatters or the lack of motivation at work? I thought not.

Last night I finished Jake's Thing by Kingsley Amis. Very amusing. This is the story of 60-year old Jake Richardson, an Oxford don who is trying to regain his lost libido and ventures on a "modern" (late-70s) bout of psycho-sexual therapy. I feel that these days a few pills of Viagra would have done the trick, and Amis probably felt the same, given that he displays a great deal of anger towards the medical fraternity in this book. Can we also project Jake's misogyny onto Amis? Many people have, though I personally doubt it. I wouldn't know enough about the late author to even hazard a guess, although this article titled Philip Hensher: Amis was neither a misogynist nor a homophobe argues against the proposition. This isn't a book that I'd highly recommend unless you are already an Amis fan, but from the point of view of this Amis fan, it was well worth reading.

And just when you thought I would be all Amis-ed out, I was faced with the choice on my book pile of either Martin Amis' London Fields, or Pistache by Sebastian Faulks. I chose Pistache for a bit of light-hearted humour and was faced with the first two pieces being spoofs of none other than Kingsley and Martin Amis!

Pistache is a collection of short satirical parodies of various authors, apparently inspired by The Write Stuff on BBC's Radio 4. That doesn't mean much to an uncultured Aussie, but there you go. It is probably against copyright, but I feel that anybody who loves literature would want to buy this book anyway, so here I am going to share the wonderful parody of Martin Amis:

Martin Amis sends his lad to Hogwarts

      Primped and shining in the school's idea of a uniform - to which my success in the risibly straightforward scholarship exam had condemned me - I was presented to 'Professor' McGonagall, a chestless sexagenarian with halitosis that could have downed a wing of Lancasters; then to Dumbledore, the shuffling dotard of a headmaster, whose eyes appraised me with the unhurried insolence of the career pederast.
      He entrusted me to Hermione Granger, a smug little number with a row of coloured gel pens in the pocket of her Aertex shirt, an item given pleasing heft by the twin discs of her tumid little breasts. She was, I had already been told, rumoured to give hand jobs of Stakhanovite efficiency to the gods of the Quidditch team as they showered off the stardust of their sporting triumphs, lined up in engorged single file.
      The dormitory was a row of iron beds, purchased at some Gulag boot sale; the wanking opportunities, doubtless in breach of numerous human rights, looked about as promising as those in a lock-down facility for convicted Islamic pick-pockets.
      Next from that baleful twilight emerged 'Ron' Weasley, a spavined welterweight who reeked of chav, with his fucked-up bathmat of orange frizz and his eyes full of cancelled hope. In the bed next to mine was Harry Potter, a weapons-grade geek with a thunderbolt of acne through his candidly sebaceous forehead, who told me he lived in a cupboard for fuck's sake.
      Outside, I waved goodbye to my parents with sinister, noir-ish gestures, the sculpted rhomboids of my fingernails still glistening from the manicure they had received that morning from Renska, the tragically unmagnetic Pole in Hans 'n' Feat on Ken High Street, who had more or less begged me to let her go down on my, admittedly, triangulated groin.
      'Gosh,' said little Potter. 'I hope you'll be in Gryffindor.'
      'I think not,' I said, watching as the witch McGonagall embarked on some embarrassing hokum with an oldster's rug-covering into which she periodically plunged her veiny claw.
      I had been given the low-down on the houses by one Malfoy, an enthusiastic sodomite in the second year, whose parents knew mine through some unspeakable, almost certainly adulterous, connection of tennis and 'pot-luck' suppers, for which Mrs M favoured pleated white skirts of possibly illegal brevity, granting occasional glimpses of white cotton gash that had furnished material for an entire summer of jackhammer fantasy.
      And so it was that at the end of my first day, answering wearily to the call of my name, I pulled myself up to my full four feet eleven and sauntered through the porter's lodge to Slytherin, its turbid quadrangles, its simmering ante-rooms...

Seriously, how funny is that. It reads like something straight out of The Rachel Papers. As well as the two openers, this book holds parodies of Jane Austen, Enid Blyton, Dan Brown, Lewis Carroll, Geoffrey Chaucer, Agatha Christie and many more. It is well worth checking out.

Okay that's this very long post out of the way. I realise I should probably have split it into three parts, but seriously I couldn't be fucked, and it's not like I have any readers anyway, so who am I even talking to here??

bye bye,

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Dolphin Throne

This was a gift, and I called the bluff by actually installing it:

oh my,

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The Dirty Beat - by Venero Armanno

Okay, this is one great read, especially if you're a Brisbanite who digs real music and a good tale. Dr Venero Armanno is a much-celebrated creative writing teacher and is in fact the Head of Creative Writing at the University of Queensland. I haven't read any of his previous novels, but I definitely want to now, because The Dirty Beat is an absolute cracker.

This is the tale of a rock and jazz drummer, Max, who has died at the age of 50 while dancing with a young girl at a rock gig. The narration is undertaken by Max's spirit as he observes his funeral, his friends and reflects on his past. He holds a dialogue with the characters of his past, sometimes one-way, sometimes two. This is an original (I think?) and clever writing device that allows Max to tell his life story in a very real, yet reflective and almost sentimental way. It works very well and adds an edge to the novel - an edge that gels very well with the world of music in Brisbane's underbelly in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Armanno has created a diverse array of interesting characters which is probably the most important factor in this kind of work.

This book brought tears to my eyes a number of times, because I truly felt it. Or maybe just because I'm an overly emotional freak. Anyway, I think this means that it is very well written! Anyway, there is more information including reviews, a note from Venero Armanno and a video trailer on the MySpace page. I wish I had been to the book launch...

Enough from me, except to say that I wish I was a good writer :(

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Ice Water - by Cat Power

I don't trust these lyrics much, but here you go...

Like I heard her

Backwards saying
I can take one thousand
And never be clean
Of course she lied away
She is ten times heavier
And Stronger, then you found
The grave
Or ever was
He's got it down name
You know what I need
Who doesn't lie?
You know what I mean
If I'm ever in
Doubt of you
Like you don't know
I am so, angry
I am so, at ease
I feel just like
Some great big disease
I think you need
Ice water
But the only thing that
You really hate
Is all its emptiness
Ah, you'll swim
And I will drink myself to
If I'm never in
Doubt of you
Like you don't know

My Exclusionist Philosophy

I've arrived at this after much deep contemplation, and I think it's a winner:

"don't let anybody in. they will hurt yr body or yr mind. look after yourself."

It's my new Guiding Principle.

I hope it helps lots of other people out there,

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Heaven's Net Is Wide

Heaven's net is wide, but its mesh is fine - Lao Tsu

It's the first day of 2008 and I've just finished reading the so-called "first" book in the Tales of the Otori, an historical fantasy set in a mythical version of Japan. These books are written by Australian Gillian Rubinstein under the pseudonym of Lian Hearn. The series began as the Otori Trilogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and was then continued with "The Last Book" (The Harsh Cry of the Heron) and now "The First Book" (Heaven's Net is Wide).

I've had bad experiences in the past when fantasy authors try to extend a successful series with "bookend" tales which seem to tell the same stories from different perspectives - for example the Eddings' Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer. And to be honest although The Harsh Cry of the Heron was covering new ground and did "need" to be told, I was over the series at that point and disappointed by it - despite crying at the end. Okay, so that's a very conflicted response. Let's just say it was hard going to get through it, but it was worth putting in the effort.

When I was walking through a bookshop and found The Heaven's Net Is Wide I bought it out of obligation, to complete my collection. I felt that this one truly was going over old ground, as it is The First Book, starting at the very beginning of the tale in events that had already been spoken of in the original series. And once again, it was a bit hard for me to get into this one, but about halfway through I found myself turning the pages faster and faster.

These doubts and gripes that I write about are possibly more a sign of my waning interest in and patience for the "fantasy" genre, rather than in any weakness in the books. This is a very strong and captivating series, and this final installment tells the prelude tale magnificently and finishes right where the series originally began, leaving me wanting to read the whole cycle again, to make up for my poor memory.

I won't do it though. Ten years ago I might have, but not now. Too many books, too little time.

Happy new year,